Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back Race Recap 2015

Ready to board my flight.

My day started very early morning on Thursday June 18. There was a rush of adrenaline cruising through my veins as I boarded the plane and flew from Boise, Idaho to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was my first time away from home alone for more than 24 hours in over three years! Two years ago, I would have felt guilty about leaving my family for a fun weekend alone, but not this time around. This time off had been earned and I was going to enjoy it and come back a happier mom and wife.

When I arrived in Salt Lake, I was greeted by some of the members of the team – Bird Machine. I was running as part of the Oiselle team. Oiselle is a woman’s athletic apparel brand that supports women athletes at a local and national level. Even though all of us are part of the Oiselle team, this was my first time meeting the 11 females that made up the team! I was excited and scared. It was my intent to be authentic and cherish every single moment regardless of how uncomfortable it felt. Thus, whether I met other people’s standards or not, the goal was to walk away with no regrets and full of positivity. We got our rental vans, checked into our hotel rooms and went shopping for snacks, fruits, and other necessities for our 24 hour running escapade.

Getting to know my teammates and posing for a picture outside of Squatters Brewery.

Once the sun started to set, we all set out to grub and enjoy each other’s company at a Salt Lake City brewery. To be frank, I was a bit nervous about eating too much because I did not want to be the runner in the van who needed to put our expedition on pause due to stomach issues, so I was very conscientious about my food choices and consumption. A turkey avocado wrap and a cup of chicken noodle soup made the final dinner cut. I’d like to say that we went wild after dark, but since 10 of the 12 of us had been flying, we went to our rooms after dinner and prepared for Ragnar Relay 2015.

Enjoying our dinner the night before the race with some cold suds at Squatters Brewery.

Bird Machine was slated a 10:00 am start time. The twelve of us were split into two groups of six. I was in Van number one and assigned legs, 6, 18, and 30. The first runner was Leana, followed by Jessica, Emily, Emma, Wendy, and yours truly. Three months ago, I was disappointed with my legs because my total distance was only 11.8  miles. However, since I had to take off two months off running from a ruptured plantar fascia, I was rather relieved I had the least amount of miles.

Top Left: Leana, Bottom Left: Jessica, Top Right: Emily, Middle Right: Wendy, Bottom Right: Emma


Top Left: Kate, Middle Left: Jessica, Bottom Right: Paulette – Team Captain, Top Right: Marilyn, Middle Right: Robyn, Bottom Right: Farron

The morning of our race was definitely filled with excitement. The drive from our hotel room in Salt Lake City to the starting line in Logan, Utah at Utah State went by fast! Prior to starting the race, we had to check-in with race personnel and ensure we had the necessary running accessories, specifically, a reflective vest for every runner with a blinker light attached to it and two headlamps. Next, we watched a mandatory safety video and the do’s and don’ts of race etiquette while on the course. We then proceeded to pick up our swag bag that included t-shirts, Ragnar tattoos, body cleansing wipes, and Monster drinks. We were also issued two safety flags to use when assisting our runners. After picking up our swag bag, we trekked to the starting line of the race and took the time to soak it in. After a couple of minutes, walked back to our car, decorated our van, and headed back up to cheer Leana commence our journey.

Van 1 posing in front of the Ragnar Starting line.

Being the last runner allowed me the opportunity to cheer my teammates and assist them with any kind of aid. Because the sun was in full force, I was a little nervous when each runner would come in expressing how hot it was out and how the elevation impacted their run. I tried to remain positive and reminded myself that this was supposed to be fun and there was no need to psyche myself out. Yes, definitely easier said than done.

Leg 6

Distance: 6.9 miles with a rating of HARD according to Ragnar’s Website

Start Time: 2:40 P.M.

End Time: 3:50 P.M.

Actual Distance: 7.14 miles

Elevation Gain: 297

Elevation Loss: 1379

Minimum Elevation: 5115 feet

Maximum Elevation: 6499 feet

Temperature: 91

Leg 6 RR2015

This was my first introductory leg to a Ragnar Relay. Not only was it going to be at an elevation significantly higher than what I was accustomed to, it was also sizzling hot out with a temperature of 91 degrees! I slathered as much sunscreen as I could put on and wore a hat and shades to try to prevent from burning. Furthermore, I drank 16 ounces of Nuun Energy just before my leg was to start. The trail was unpaved and it was completely exposed to the sun as there was no trees to provide any shade. However, the exposure gave the course its magnificent views. The course initially started with a moderate ascent, but pretty soon, it turned into a gravity defying descent. My foot, which I was most worried about (on top of the heat and elevation) seemed to be handling the pounding. My bladder however, was not. With the force of each step, I felt the pressure of the liquids pushing against my bladder. The race organizers did an extremely awesome job of ensuring there were plenty of Honey Buckets at each leg exchange, but there wasn’t any on the actual running courses.

The popular Honey Buckets getting some much-needed cleaning.

The pounding on my bladder got so intense, I needed to empty it. Because I was not alone, and there was nowhere in the course to hide and relieve myself, I had to make a strong effort to hold it. However, when you have weak pelvic floor muscles caused by giving birth, holding it becomes more challenging than juggling expensive porcelain plates while balancing on one foot. As the descent got steeper, my bladder gave in and then there was pressure no more. Even though it was pretty embarrassing, it would have been just as embarrassing to have dropped my pants in front of runners behind me and next to me who were in their vans en route to the next leg. When Jessica and Emma came to give me some water during the middle of my run, I felt the need to tell them about my mishap like a sinner in church.  My confession brought so much relief, and I was finally able to enjoy the run and the wonderful views.

When running in scenery this rad, self-taken pictures with a mobile device are mandatory.

It was my intent to run with gratitude prior to my run, and I gave thanks not only for this wonderful experience, but for the path that led to it regardless of how painful and embarrassing the experiences may have been. I was grateful for my family, for my health, for my friends, for the opulent mountains, the turquoise skies, the strangers around me who were far more than kind to me. I was thankful for this experiences, and above all, I was thankful for being able to run.

“The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” Michael Josephson

Despite the temperatures, there were so many happy runners out there. Some were forced to run, while others cruised down the hill. Many of the vans running adjacent to us on the side of the road cheered us on and there was a team that made sure to get out every half mile or so and sprayed us runners with water. That five second water mist made the biggest difference! It almost dropped our core temperature by at least 15 degrees. The sun was so hot, it took split seconds for it to burn the surface of the skin.

I wanted to sing, “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.”

With about 2 miles remaining, the unpaved path turned into a road and I was beginning to feel a rush of excitement. The furthest distance I had run in the last two and half months was four miles, but I was now at five and thankfully not feeling any pain in my foot at all. When there was one mile left and my foot still felt good, I knew I would be okay with the two remaining legs as they were less than 3 miles each.

Our living quarters traversing some gorgeous scenery.

There was so much joy within me when I reached mile seven and saw my teammate ahead waiting for her chance to run the Wasatch range. I ran up to her and slapped the orange bracelet on her wrist with much gusto! Once my leg was over, our van was scheduled to take a break until runners 7-12 made it back to the next exchange. I quickly headed back to the car to get a new clean pair of clothes and prepared for our night run.

This was our resting spot until close to midnight, when Van 2 finished their legs and we began ours. We started here when it was still light out, but once we lost complete strength of the sun, the air around us became extremely cloud and the grass beneath us made it difficult for our bodies to remain warm.

Leg 18 Distance: 2.3 miles with a rating of Easy.

Start Time: 4:18 A.M.

End Time: 4:39 A.M.

Actual Distance: 2.28 miles

Elevation Gain: 30

Elevation Loss: 8

Minimum Elevation: 5564 feet

Maximum Elevation: 5612 feet

Temperature: 45

Leg 18 RR2015

The temperature had dropped by 46 degrees, so one could say I was cold. I got very little sleep, so I was tired. It was dark, so I could not see where my feet were landing nor what was around me. Apparently, there was water nearby, but I never saw it. All runners were required to wear a reflective safety vest, a blinker light attached to it, and a headlamp. I did know the ground was soft and I was running on a dirt trail. My long sleeve Oiselle Flyte shirt and capris kept me warm and I was so happy I decided to pack a warmer running outfit. Because of the distance, I never actually got the opportunity to get hot. My leg was the closing leg for Van 1 and I knew Van 2 was right around the corner waiting for us. With about a mile left, the path changed from dirt to road. The stars were shining brightly over the clear opaque sky and there was very little movement around me. Once again, I was grateful to be out there and enjoying the companionship of the moon above me and the runners around me who were also cherishing their journey. When I reached Robyn (runner 7) I was once again grateful my foot did not hurt. My mind was wide awake, but my body was definitely tired. My teammates and I headed towards the next exchange and we all agreed to sleep inside the van.

Once my leg was over, we all agreed to sleep inside the van in order to remain warm. It was hard for me to catch any sleep because I could not find a comfortable sleeping position no matter how much I tried to turn my body into a pretzel.

Leg 30 Distance: 2.6 miles with a rating of Easy.

Start Time: 12:04 P.M.

End Time: 12:39 P.M.

Actual Distance: 2.72 miles

Elevation Gain: 481

Elevation Loss: 464

Minimum Elevation: 6715 feet

Maximum Elevation: 7202 feet

Temperature: 45

Leg 30 RR2015Hot, sweaty, excited, and ready to be done!! That is how I felt at the start of my final leg when Wendy, runner 5, handed the orange wristband to me. Once again, I was running on a trail, and unbeknownst to me, the trail was barely wide enough for one person.

Ready for my last and final leg! I had gotten so much sun, I had produced enough Vitamin D worth an entire Summer.

About 1/4 mile into it, the trail started climbing, and it got a little more challenging with rocks, branches and deep holes that could cause a deep sprain. I felt my chest getting heavier and my legs kept slowing down. Because all I could think about was how the run was labeled as easy, I was expecting for the climbing to plateau, but it didn’t. The further we went, the harder and trickier it got. I noticed runners ahead of me walking because the terrain was no longer friendly to rapid feet. As much I did not want to stop, I had to. It was a switch back trail, and the rocks were too big and the ground too uneven for me to even attempt to run. When I was a mile into the run, I felt myself getting irritated because I had no idea how much further we would be going. Easy was not the word I would have used to describe my leg. If anything, it was at least a challenging trail hike. At around 1.4 miles, I reached the summit with another girl, who was feeling the same way I was about the Easy description of the course. Our legs went from going up the hill to losing all the elevation we had just gained. We stayed as close together as possible and then we bumped into a little boy who had just earlier whizzed by us. He was on the ground and appeared to have hurt himself. We stopped and asked if he needed help, but he reassured us he was okay and that he just needed to catch his breath. The other runner and I moved on and we saw the exchange below. I tried to pick up the pace a little going downhill, but remained cautious so as not to fall and hurt myself. Once both my feet touched pavement, I made a right turn, and I could see my teammates cheering for me ahead and my heart filled with joy. When there was about 100 feet remaining, I took off my wristband and held it up high to demonstrate my enthusiasm and eagerness to hand it off.

Bringing Van 1 to its final journey and ready to hand off to Van 2. Can you see the look of excitement on my face? I was most looking forward to a shower where I could scrub off the layers of sunscreen off of my body.

The race exceeded my expectations! Not only was I in excellent company, I enjoyed one-of-a-kind views. The first portion of our race was actually very smooth with little to no traffic between transitions. We did not experience any congestion until we began our night legs, but it was understood given all of the teams were on the course by this point. There were portable bathrooms in every leg and driving markers for the vans were well marked. The finisher’s t-shirt is one I would totally wear again and the medal is absolutely sweet!

Hanging out at one of the exchanges and taking in some sun.

The only notable changes I would make pertain to the finish line and the exchanges between Vans 1 and Vans 2. It would be nice if coffee or some kind of pick-me-up beverage was offered, especially during the night transitions, when you find yourself fighting sleep. The finish line seemed very compressed and it was difficult to enjoy the scenery because it was a rather small space. While not an issue for me, some of my teammates were disappointed in the fact there was no beer at the finish line. I don’t know if this is a Ragnar issue or a setting issue (Utah). Finally, the leg descriptions to me were not very accurate. Just because a leg is 3 miles long does not necessarily mean it is easy, especially if half that distance requires climbing a steep and challenging trail. When your pace drops significantly to the point that you have to start walking, then I am not sure easy is a fair description of what to expect. Overall though, I would most certainly return to this course and do it all over again. My experience was positive and I will never forget my first time doing a Ragnar Relay.

Team Bird Machine finished in 36 hours and managed to get 3rd Plan in the Women’s Open! We were so happy to learn that our efforts actually put us into a third place position despite the fact that competing was not our goal.

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12 thoughts on “Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back Race Recap 2015

  1. What a great recap! I am so glad I got to be a part of your team. Your enthusiasm and positive attitude are infectious, and I loved getting to know you! Way to go on your final “easy” leg – you rocked it!

  2. Such a great recap Luisa! It was such a pleasure running with you and getting to know you. Your positivity was so wonderful. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for every step out there. I hope we have a chance to run together again soon!

  3. Pingback: Race Report: Ragnar Wasatch Back

    • Thank you Paulette! Your views were just as majestic. Thank you once again for bringing this escapade to fruition. It has been a wonderful highlight of this year so far.

  4. First time away from home for more than a day in over THREE years!? Wow!!! I am sure that must have been something special for you. Was it weird at first?

    What an experience meeting 11 other women for the first time and traveling around together for the race. What was your favorite part of the event? Did you do anything after the race was over?

    • It was special and most needed. In the past I’ve been apprehensive about going away, but staying home with my two-year-old has turned that around. It did feel weird to go out to a restaurant and not request for a children’s menu or to scarf down my food quickly, or to be scolding my little one and tell her to remain seated. I really enjoyed exploring Utah and the views two of my three legs offered and I’m thinking running was my favorite part after my marathon training heartache. We rented a condo after the race and we all took some much needed showers, ate pizza, and some enjoyed beer.

  5. Pingback: Summer Training Potpourri | Running is Democratic

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